Legal battle lines have been drawn between government and two Malawian businesspersons over part of Livimbo schools (both primary and secondary) land where the latter are alleged to have encroached on.
While Minister of Lands and Urban Development Symon Vuwa-Kaunda on Saturday said government will take legal action against the two businesspersons, one of the businesspersons, Ahmed Yajub Laheri, also threatened legal action, claiming he has documents to prove ownership in court.
While insisting that Livimbo Community Day Secondary School was not sold, Vuwa Kaunda on Saturday told journalists that the school’s land had been encroached upon; hence, government will take legal action.
“What I can confirm to you after going through our map, which we have from 1971, is that the plot has really encroached—six metres of it is where those warehouses are standing—this is illegal and we will take action,” he said.
The minister revisited the school on Saturday after he did the same on Wednesday, when our sister newspaper The Nation wrote about an alleged sale of government school, following the revelation by Lilongwe City South West legislator Nancy Tembo (Malawi Congress Party).
During a spot-check at the school on Saturday, Nation on Sunday found that some warehouses were constructed closer to classrooms at the premises. There are also boundary beacons mounted inside the school premises, purportedly by Laheri and his co-business person Irfan Mohamed Patel.
A teacher told Nation on Sunday that Laheri challenged them that he wanted to construct a road to some warehouses built where the school’s woodlot was.
On Saturday , Vuwa Kaunda confirmed claims of an impending road construction, saying government as owners of the land, would not allow that to happen.
He alleged that 6.1 metres of the school grounds was encroached upon and that government will be forced to demolish the erected property if developers were not going to comply. Vuwa Kaunda said government acquired the said school plot (No 2/212) from Conforzi Estate in 1971.
He urged the school’s management and Parents Teachers’ Association (PTA) to fight on and ensure that the school is not demolished. He said the issue has prompted
President Peter Mutharika to call for an investigation into the matter.
“There is no information that the school has been sold and that we want to maintain. Nobody should come here in the name that they have bought the school, if they have documents, those documents are fake; and the PTA should arrest the people,” he said.
But when Ministry of Lands officials and members of the press stormed into the warehouse standing in the school premises, Laheri insisted that it was the school that has encroached on his land, and he, too, said will take legal action against government.
He insisted that he bought the land and has valid papers, which he said he is ready to produce in court, and will not give in to any intimidation.
Laheri claimed that one of the school blocks is standing on a road reserve, according to map he showed Nation on Sunday, and that the school was 6.1 metres into his land. He also said he acquired the plot from Conforzi in 1956, and his plots are 2/239 and 2/213.
“I cannot develop on an encroached land. I have all the necessary documents. I bought the land legally. I will take legal action as well, where one of the school blocks is standing is a road reserve as it is here on the map. So, if the minister says we encroached, that’s not true, we did not. We bought the land and the school is the one encroaching on our land,” he insisted.
The Anti- Corruption Bureau (ACB) is currently probing the alleged sale of Livimbo Community Day Secondary School and two parliamentary committee members—Legal Affairs and Education—visited the school last Friday and promised to get to the bottom of the matter before coming up with their stand on the wrangle.
Meanwhile, officials from the Ministry of Lands have been summoned to appear before the Parliamentary Committee on Public Accounts tomorrow, to explain the same.
Two weeks ago, Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development busted a parallel ‘Lands Office’ in Lilongwe which allegedly transacted and sold plots with counterfeit documents. Seven suspects were arrested in connection with operations of the dubious ‘Lands Office’.
An official from the ministry confided in The Nation that the busted syndicate was the one that is believed to have sold the Livimbo school land.
Land scams are not new in Malawi as many people, including Cabinet ministers and high-ranking government officials have previously been duped in their attempts to acquire land.
In 2018, Vuwa-Kaunda, then serving as one of President Peter Mutharika’s advisers, was duped about K1.4 million in a fake plot allocation by someone who posed as controller of Lands.
Information gathered by The Nation indicated that the suspects were released on police bail, but without being charged.